21st Mar, 2019-IAS Current Affairs
‘Tuberculosis’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: A tuberculosis-free world is possible only by 2045 and not 2030, the target year set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end the epidemic, said a report in British medical journal Lancet.
Other observations made in the report:
- According to the World Health Organization’s “Global Tuberculosis Report 2018″, India accounted for 27% of the 10 million people, who had developed TB in 2017, besides making up 32% of global TB deaths among HIV-negative people, and 27% of combined TB deaths.
- The disease remains a major public health challenge, and was responsible for 1.6 million deaths worldwide in 2017.
- The reports stressed the need that NSP (National Strategic Plan prepared by the centre in 2017), needs accelerated action, accountability and a dynamic strategy that is responsive to real-time data.
- The report, however, suggests that India could avert more than a quarter of TB deaths in the next 30 years by subsidizing tests and supporting patients to complete treatment , besides engaging private sector healthcare providers.
- According to the Lancet report, increased political will, financial resources and increasing research to develop new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent TB will help achieve the goal.
- The report estimates that there are significant financial benefits of reducing TB mortality—the savings from averting a TB death are estimated to be three times the costs, and may be much greater in many countries.
- Global research investment needs to increase by up to four times (from US$726 million in 2016) to develop treatments and prevention tools that would transform TB outcomes
What causes Tuberculosis?
A bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes TB. There are a variety of TB strains, and some have become resistant to medication.
TB bacteria are transmitted through infected droplets in the air. Once they’re in the air, another nearby person can inhale them. A person who has TB can be transmitted the bacteria via:
People with well-functioning immune systems may not experience TB symptoms, even though they are infected with the bacteria. This is known as latent or inactive TB infection. According to WHO, about one-quarter of the world’s population has latent TB
Latent TB isn’t contagious, but it can become an active disease over time
‘Artificial intelligence’ (GS3: Science and technology)
Issue: The largest AI startup in the world is aiming to use the AI technology to sustain growth by expanding globally and diving deeper into arenas from autonomous cars to health care.
SenseTime Group Ltd., the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup, the company counts education, self-driving vehicles as well as surgery and diagnostics among areas ripe for commercializing AI
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and reacts like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include:
- Speech recognition
- Problem solving
‘Indian mobile subscribers’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: The country’s telecom subscriber base for the third time crossed 120-crore mark with Reliance Jio, BSNL and Airtel adding new customers in January, according to a report released by telecom regulator Trai.
Broadband connections in the country grew 4.15% to 54 crore in January from 51.8 crore in December. The mobile devices-based broadband connections accounted for over 96 per cent of total base with over 52.1 crore subscribers while wireline connections reached 1.82 crore.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is a statutory body set up by the Government of India under section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997. It is the regulator of the telecommunications sector in India.
It consists of a Chairperson and not more than two full-time members and not more than two part-time members.
TRAI’s mission is to create and nurture conditions for growth of telecommunications in India to enable the country to have a leading role in the emerging global information society. One of its main objectives is to provide a fair and transparent environment that promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition in the market. TRAI regularly issues orders and directions on various subjects such as tariffs, interconnections, quality of service, Direct To Home (DTH) services and mobile number portability.
‘Made in India’ (GS3: Security)
Issue: Defence Ministry cleared a major project for the Indian Army for the acquisition of 10 lakh ‘Made in India’ multi-mode hand grenades
About the project
The new hand grenades will replace the existing inventory, HE-36 grenades manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board. The multi-mode grenades have been developed by the DRDO and a production agency has been selected to manufacture them in large numbers.
The project worth more than ₹500 crore proposal was critical as the government has already taken care of the main personal weapon requirements of the Army soldiers by signing two contracts for modern rifles.
About Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)
It is an industrial organisation, functioning under the Department of Defence Production of Ministry of Defence, Government of India. It is engaged in research, development, production, testing, marketing and logistics of a comprehensive product range in the areas of air, land and sea systems.
OFB is the world’s largest government-operated production organisation, and the oldest organisation run by the Government of India
The history and development of the Indian Ordnance Factories is directly linked with the British reign in India. The East India Company considered military hardware to be a vital element for securing their economic interest in India and increasing their political power. In 1775, the British East India Company accepted the establishment of the Board of Ordnance at Fort William, Calcutta. This marks the official beginning of the Army Ordnance in India.
‘World Happiness report’ (GS3: Various indices of growth)
Issue: Finland has topped a global happiness ranking for the second year in a row
Highlights of the report
- It beat Nordic peers Denmark, Norway and Iceland in a ranking of 156 countries by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
- The ranking saw the US drop one place, to 19th, while people in South Sudan were the least happy.
- The report include factors such as gross domestic product, social support from friends and family, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perceived corruption and recent emotions — both happy and sad.
- India was ranked at 140 on the United Nation’s latest World Happiness Report that gauged 156 countries, a decline of seven spots from the last edition of the survey. The report said the countries which had suffered such a decline had some combination of economic, political, and social stresses
- India’s South Asian neighbors ranked higher with Pakistan pegged at 67, Bhutan at 95, Bangladesh at 125 and Sri Lanka at 130.
Significance of the index
The data offer the world’s governments and individuals the opportunity to rethink public policies as well as individual life choices, to raise happiness and well-being
‘Asteroid Bennu’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Scientists have discovered evidence of abundant water-bearing minerals on the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.
Using early spectral data from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft orbiting the asteroid, the team identified infrared properties similar to those in a type of meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites.
OSIRIS-REx data confirm previous ground-based observations pointing to aqueously altered, hydrated minerals on the surface of the asteroid
About OSIRIS-Rex mission
The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is a NASA asteroid study and sample-return mission.
The mission’s main goal is to obtain a sample of at least 60 grams (2.1 oz) from 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous near-Earth asteroid, and return the sample to Earth for a detailed analysis. The material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System, its initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds that led to the formation of life on Earth
The science objectives of the mission are:
- Return and analyze a sample of pristine carbonaceous asteroid regolith in an amount sufficient to study the nature, history, and distribution of its constituent minerals and organic compounds.
- Map the global properties, chemistry, and mineralogy of a primitive carbonaceous asteroid to characterize its geologic and dynamic history and provide context for the returned samples.
- Document the texture, morphology, geochemistry, and spectral properties of the regolith at the sampling site in situ at scales down to millimeters.
- Measure the Yarkovsky effect (a thermal force on the object) on a potentially hazardous asteroid and constrain the asteroid properties that contribute to this effect.
- Characterize the integrated global properties of a primitive carbonaceous asteroid to allow for direct comparison with ground-based telescopic data of the entire asteroid population.
‘Pulsar star’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: NASA astronomers have discovered a pulsar zipping though space like a hyper-speed cosmic cannonball, travelling at 2.5 million miles per hour — five times faster than an average pulsar.
What is a Pulsar star?
It is a highly magnetized rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation. This radiation can be observed only when the beam of emission is pointing toward Earth (much like the way a lighthouse can be seen only when the light is pointed in the direction of an observer), and is responsible for the pulsed appearance of emission. Neutron stars are very dense, and have short, regular rotational periods. This produces a very precise interval between pulses that ranges from milliseconds to seconds for an individual pulsar. Pulsars are believed to be one of the candidates for the source of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays
The periods of pulsars make them very useful tools. Observations of a pulsar in a binary neutron star system were used to indirectly confirm the existence of gravitational radiation. The first extrasolar planets were discovered around a pulsar, PSR B1257+12. Certain types of pulsars rival atomic clocks in their accuracy in keeping time
‘Meteor blast’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: On Dec. 18, 2018, a school bus-size meteor exploded over Earth with an impact energy of roughly 10 atomic bombs.
According to NASA, the blast was the second-largest meteor impact since the organization began tracking them 30 years ago, bested only by the infamous fireball that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in Feb. 2013.
According to NASA, that meteor weighed about 1,500 tons (1,360 metric tons), had a diameter of about 32 feet (10 meters), and was traveling through the atmosphere at about 71,582 mph (115,200 kilometers per hour) when it exploded. The blast occurred about 15.5 miles (25 km) over the ocean and erupted with an energy equivalent to 173 kilotons of TNT — roughly 10 times the energy of the atomic bomb that the United States detonated over Hiroshima during World War II.
It is a small rocky or metallic body in outer space. Meteoroids are significantly smaller than asteroids, and range in size from small grains to one-meter-wide objects
When a meteoroid, comet, or asteroid enters Earth’s atmosphere at a speed typically in excess of 20 km/s (72,000 km/h; 45,000 mph), aerodynamic heating of that object produces a streak of light, both from the glowing object and the trail of glowing particles that it leaves in its wake. This phenomenon is called a meteor or “shooting star”. A series of many meteors appearing seconds or minutes apart and appearing to originate from the same fixed point in the sky is called a meteor shower. If that object withstands ablation from its passage through the atmosphere as a meteor and impacts with the ground, it is then called a meteorite.
‘Hydrogen fuel’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Stanford scientists have devised a way to generate hydrogen fuel from seawater using solar power, an advance that may help pave the way for a novel sustainable source of energy.
About this new technology
The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate a new way of separating hydrogen and oxygen gas from salt water.
The technology could also be used for purposes beyond generating energy. Since the process also produces breathable oxygen, divers or submarines could bring devices into the ocean and generate oxygen down below without having to surface for air.
More on the discovery
As a concept, splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity — called electrolysis — is a simple and old idea: a power source connects to two electrodes placed in water.
When power turns on, hydrogen gas bubbles out of the negative end — called the cathode — and breathable oxygen emerges at the positive end — the anode.
However, negatively charged chloride in seawater salt can corrode the positive end, limiting the system’s lifespan. Researchers wanted to find a way to stop those seawater components from breaking down the submerged anodes.
They discovered that if they coated the anode with layers that were rich in negative charges, the layers repelled chloride and slowed down the decay of the underlying metal.
They layered nickel-iron hydroxide on top of nickel sulphide, which covers a nickel foam core. The nickel foam acts as a conductor — transporting electricity from the power source — and the nickel-iron hydroxide sparks the electrolysis, separating water into oxygen and hydrogen.
During electrolysis, the nickel sulphide evolves into a negatively charged layer that protects the anode.
‘Nursultan’ (Facts that can be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Kazakhstan’s new interim President was sworn in on March 20 following the shock resignation of the country’s long-time ruler and in his first official act renamed the capital after his predecessor as ‘Nursultan’
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev took office in a pomp-filled ceremony less than 24 hours after Nursultan Nazarbayev, the only leader an independent Kazakhstan had ever known
About Nursultan Nazarbayev
He ruled Kazakhstan since before it gained independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. He steered the country through a major transformation, developing huge energy reserves and boosting its international influence, but was accused of cracking down on dissent and tolerating little opposition.
‘World Sparrow day’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Every year March 20 is observed as World Sparrow Day to raise awareness about the bird. The need for marking this day was felt due to the tremendous decrease in its population.
Theme for 2019
The house sparrow is on the verge of extinction. This year the theme for WORLD SPARROW DAY is I LOVE Sparrows. The theme has been inspired by the hope that more and more of us will celebrate the relationship between PEOPLE AND SPARROWS.
The initiative was started by Nature Forever Society (NFS) of India, founded by Mohammed Dilawar, an Indian conservationist. He started his work helping the house sparrow in Nashik. He was also named one of the “Heroes of the Environment” for 2008 by Time for his efforts.
‘Navroz and Holi’ (GS1: Indian culture)
Issue: President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the nation on the occasion of Holi and Navroz
About Holi and Navroz festival
Holi is an ancient Hindu spring festival, originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is celebrated predominantly in India, Excepting South India and Nepal, but has also spread to other areas of Asia and parts of the Western world through the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent. Holi is popularly known as the Indian “festival of spring”, the “festival of colors”, or the “festival of love”
The festival also celebrates the beginning of a good spring harvest season
Navroz is the Iranian New Year. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans. Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendar.